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01 Mar 2013

Open Now at Palme d'Or: The True Story of 'Nicky's Family' Must Be Experienced

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Nicholas Winton with one of his rescuees. Nicholas Winton with one of his rescuees.

Nicky’s Family is a documentary that plays like more of a TV film than something for the big screen, but you won’t care by the time the film ends. That’s because the story being told here is amazing, heart-wrenching and ultimately heartwarming.

Nicholas Winton was a rich Englishman in 1938, getting ready for a ski trip when he got a call from a friend dealing with troubles in Czechoslovakia. Soon thereafter, Winton found himself in that country assisting in the rescue of 669 Czech and Slovak children. He financed the passage of these children to England, where they avoided the concentration camps (although they did face Nazi wrath when Germany began bombing their new home).

Winton is 103 now, and the size of his “family” numbers in the thousands. Many decades went by with those rescued by Winton not knowing him, but that changed when Winton’s scrapbook, containing lists of the children and records of their arrival in England, was made public.

Matej Minac’s film, hosted in part by Joe Schlesinger (who was rescued by Minton), gets a little clunky when it stages re-enactments of Winton’s life, but those are a small part of the picture. It’s an amazing thing to see Winton, as a guest on a TV show, being surprised by adults who he rescued as children. The film is at its best when it is talking to him in the present day, and interviewing those he saved.

Winton has been referred to as the “British Schindler,” and that’s a suitable title.

The film itself is no work of art, but the story at its core is something you must experience.

Nicky’s Family opens Friday, March 1, at the Cinema Palme d’Or, 72840 Highway 111 in Palm Desert; 779-0730; www.thepalme.com.

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